Skip to main content

Buddhism, meditation, and ‘the inner world’


Buddhist meditation seems to involve giving attention to one's thoughts and feelings, to one's ‘inner world’. In this article I explore what is involved in such talk of one's inner world, with special reference to Wittgenstein's claim that ‘the inner’ is a delusion. The article explores the nature of thoughts and feelings, and suggests that we cannot fully understand what is involved in meditation without some consideration of its ethical and religious context. I conclude with some reflections on how the pictures we naturally employ in thinking about meditation can lead us into a misleading metaphysical view of ‘the inner’.

Corresponding author
Hide All
Canfield, John V. (1975) ‘Wittgenstein and Zen’, Philosophy, 50, 383408.
Canfield, John V. (2007a) Becoming Human: The Development of Language, Self, and Self-Consciousness (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan).
Canfield, John V. (2007b) ‘Wittgenstein on fear’, in Moyal-Sharrock, D. (ed.) Perspicuous Presentations: Essays on Wittgenstein's Philosophy of Psychology (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan), 1227.
Cleary, Thomas (1993) The Flower Ornament Scripture (Boston: Shambhala Publications).
Cook, Francis (1977) Hua-yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra (London: Pennsylvania State University Press).
Fogelin, R. (1987) Wittgenstein, 2nd edn (London: Routledge).
Gendlin, Eugene T. (1978/2003) Focusing, rev. edn (London: Rider).
Gendlin, Eugene T. (1996) Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy (New York: Guilford Press).
Gudmunsen, Chris (1977) Wittgenstein and Buddhism (London: Macmillan).
Hacker, Peter (2010) ‘In one's head: review of Galen Strawson's Selves’, Times Literary Supplement, 22 January.
Hamilton, Sue (1996) Identity and Experience: The Constitution of the Human Being According to Early Buddhism (London: Luzac Oriental).
Harvey, Peter (1995) The Selfless Mind: Personality, Consciousness and Nirvana in Early Buddhism (London: Routledge).
Hudson, H. (1973) ‘Wittgenstein and Zen Buddhism’, Philosophy East and West, 23, 471481.
Kabat-Zinn, Jon & Davidson, Richard (eds) (2011) The Mind's Own Physician (Oakland CA: New Harbinger Publications).
Namgyal, Dakpo Tashi (2001) Clarifying the Natural State, Kunsang, Eric (tr.) (Hong Kong: Rangyung Yeshe).
Ñanamoli, Bhikkhu (2001) The Life of the Buddha (Onalaska WA: Pariyatti Publishing).
Phillips, D. Z. (1977) ‘On wanting to compare Wittgenstein and Zen’, Philosophy, 50, 338343.
Purton, Campbell (2014a) The Trouble with Psychotherapy: Counselling and Common Sense (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan).
Purton, Campbell (2014b) ‘Wittgenstein and the expression of feelings in psychotherapy’, Philosophical Investigations, 37, 152166.
Read, Rupert (2009) ‘Wittgenstein and Zen: one practice, no dogma’, in Garfield, Jay L. & Tilemans, Tom J. F. (eds) Pointing at the Moon: Buddhism, Logic, Analytical Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 1324.
Schopenhauer, Arthur (1844/1966) The World as Will and as Representation, Payne, E. F. J. II (tr.) (New York: Dover Publications).
Strawson, Galen (2009) Selves: An Essay in Revisionary Metaphysics (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Sujata, Victoria (2011) Songs of Shabkar: The Path of a Tibetan Yogi Inspired by Nature (Cazadero CA: Dharma Publishing).
ter Hark, Michel (1990) Beyond the Inner and the Outer: Wittgenstein's Philosophy of Psychology (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers).
Vesey, Godfrey N. & Bleau, Renée (2013) Inner and Outer: Essays on a Philosophical Myth (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan).
Willis, Janice (1982) On Knowing Reality: The Tattvartha Chapter of Asanga's Bodhisattvabhumi (Delhi: Motilal Banaridass).
Williams, Leonard (1980) Samba and the Monkey Mind, rev. edn (London: Allison & Busby).
Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1963) Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul).
Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1969) On Certainty (Oxford: Basil Blackwell).
Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1980) Culture and Value, 2nd edn (Oxford: Blackwell).
Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1992) Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology, II: The Inner and the Outer (Oxford: Blackwell).
Wittgenstein, Ludwig (2009) Philosophical Investigations, 4th edn (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell).
Wittgenstein, Ludwig (2009 PPF). ‘Philosophy of psychology – a fragment’, in Philosophical Investigations, 4th edn (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell), 182243.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Religious Studies
  • ISSN: 0034-4125
  • EISSN: 1469-901X
  • URL: /core/journals/religious-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 147
Total number of PDF views: 344 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 947 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 14th August 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.